Thursday, September 29, 2016

God Bless America
By Michael

Me climbing a coconut palm back in American
Samoa. I didn't make it past that bend
in the trunk.
We recently found ourselves in Fiji and in need of getting our signatures notarized on U.S. documents.

“Let’s go to Suva, to the U.S. Embassy.” I said to Windy.

“Suva? Why not just get them notarized here, they said a Fijian notary would be fine.”

She’s was right. We were told a Fijian notary would be fine. But what if that was bad information? These docs were urgent and we were already pushing it with the shipping timeline. So I googled it. I learned that Fiji was part of a Hague convention in 1961 that allows reciprocity for notary services. But it didn’t seem that simple. The word apostille kept popping up. In fact, that Hague convention was the Apostille Convention. An apostille is a separate piece of paper I’d never heard of and I wasn’t clear about whether we needed that in addition to the notary for everything to be valid.

“Why take a risk? If we get them notarized at our embassy, we know it’s good. Plus, we’ve paid our taxes over the years, it’s our due.”

“Maybe, but it also means renting a car and driving three hours each way, to Suva and back.”

“It’ll be an adventure, and we’ll not have to worry whether our signatures pass muster.”

“I’m not worried, you are.”

We found a dirt-cheap rental car in Port Denarau and then got upgraded to a snazzy ride after they ran out of economy cars. We got lost after the first hour, but still made Suva by lunchtime.

“Do you have an appointment?” the guard in front of the embassy building asked.

“No. We’re U.S. citizens here to sign some docs and have them notarized.” I gave him our passports and we waited on benches outside on the stately grounds.

Twenty minutes passed before he motioned us through a glass and metal door that must have weighed four tons. Inside we were quizzed briefly, processed through airport-like security, and directed through a back door, outside again, but within the embassy compound.

“So this is the United States girls, a tiny little piece of your home country, here in Fiji. Isn’t that weird?” I felt instantly relieved of the constant traveler’s feeling of being a guest, always a transient, often hamstrung by language and culture. Here I was home and could relax. “This is a government building, our government. All the people you see here work for us, citizens of the United States.”

“We know Dad.”

The door to the next building was also fortified and once inside, we again had to go through airport-like security. Once through that, we were directed to a tiny, vault-like room and a door was closed behind us. On the wall was a small window with glass and a pass-through, like a bank teller.

I leaned in. “Hi, we just need to get our signatures notarized on some documents.”

The clerk reviewed all our paperwork, putting colored tabs on the signature lines I indicated. “That’s three times the consular official needs to sign.”

“Uh, yeah, yes, three times.”

“It’s fifty U.S. dollars per signature, payable in cash only. For three signatures, that’s one-fifty.”



“I was just telling my girls it would probably cost us nothing, being U.S. citizens and all—I guessed I imagined notary services would be free.”

“No sir, that’s what we charge, by law.”

“Let me ask you, can we get these notarized by a Fijian? Do you think that would be okay?”

Frances watching the sunset
from the boom in Fiji.
“Probably not, I’ve had lots of people try that and then have to come back when their notarized signatures were not recognized—but you’re welcome to try sir.”

I looked at Windy. She shook her head, “I think we should find a Fijian notary.”

I turned back to the clerk, “What about the Hague convention, 1961? Do you know about that?”

“Yes sir, I do. You’re welcome to have a Fijian notary help you, I can only tell you it hasn’t worked in the past.”

Windy was still shaking her head. “It only has to get by a county clerk in Arizona and they said it’s okay—I say we go.”

I turned back to the clerk. “Thanks, we’re going to try our luck.”

Outside, near the street, I posed near the U.S. Embassy sign by the road on our way back to the car. Windy raised the camera. An embassy guard started shouting, running down the driveway towards us, waving his arms. “NO! NO! NO PICTURES!”

“Seriously? Not of this sign? We’re practically on the sidewalk. Why not?”

“No pictures, not allowed.”

We drove back downtown, parked, had lunch, and found one of only two notaries in Suva. Attorney Singh was relaxed and welcoming in his modest second-story office. He charged a third of what the embassy wanted and chatted us up while he notarized and made copies for us. It kind of felt like home.


Since arriving in Fiji, we've been amazed how much it's
defied our expectations, in terms of landscape. Even from
offshore, we often see California. Couldn't the photo
above be California? Crazy.


California for sure--it was a head trip driving to Suva.

Some dude and his kid. You may have noticed on this blog that we
take few candid shots of locals. I like those pics, but we
both feel awkward taking them. And by the time we ask permission
for a photo, the image is gone, and definitely not candid. I don't
know how the Bumfuzzles do it, but they do it well.
We grabbed a snack at the Royal Suva Yacht Club. It is
a very cool place, storied and not pretentious in any way.
This café was the spiffiest part. We'll drop in again in
Del Viento as we're headed that way.

So they had a few typewriters on display and the girls
were fascinated, never having seen one in person.
They couldn't believe Windy and I actually owned
and used them in high school and college.
I can't either.
Downtown Suva.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Hanging Ten in Fiji
By Michael

Heading for the break.
We’ve spent the past two days tucked away in Natadola Bay, on the south side of Fiji’s big island. Beside the fact that it’s a beautiful little bay that we’ve got all to ourselves (ourselves and the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa), Natadola Bay is home to some of Fiji’s smallest surf.

As new owners of two surfboards recently gifted to us by the former Exodus crew (¡Muchísimas gracias, Alex and Brenden!), and as the parents of two girls still interested in learning to surf after their lessons in Pago Pago, this is the place for us, at least now, as we make our way towards Suva and then back to Savusavu.

We’re actually on a bit of a mission to reach Savusavu.


Because we have big plans. I’ll release the info slowly in the near future. But things are coming together, I think.

For now, surfing.


Windy coaching her student.

Frances got up twice, but this is the closest picture I have.
I was in the dinghy and pretty far away, so good shots
were difficult.

Eleanor got up over and over, but this is the sharpest photo.

Del Viento waiting outside the break.

                                            Windy surfing.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

My New Moon Girl
By Michael

Eleanor with her mag.
In Voyaging With Kids, authors Behan, Sara, and I address one of the primary concerns of soon-to-be cruising parents: Will my kids get enough play time with and exposure to other kids? I’m not going to repeat that chapter here, but I’ll share one tip we give in the book because I can’t say enough positive things about it: moderated social networking.

I’m talking about Facebook-like sites for kids—and before you lower your head and peer at me over your sunglasses like I’ve got to be kidding, I’ll assure you I’m not.

On our way south from Alaska in 2013, we found ourselves in a natural foods co-op near the boardwalk in Eureka, California. It was a week or so before 9-year-old Eleanor’s 10th birthday and she appeared before me in the produce section with a magazine in her hand.

“Can I please get a prescription of this for my birthday?”

“A subscription? Let me see.” I thumbed through the current issue of New Moon Girls magazine before handing it back to Eleanor, nodding. “Sure.”

She smiled and thanked me and went to sit and read.

I grabbed Windy.

“Eleanor just found this magazine and asked if she could have a subscription for her birthday, New Moon Girls, do you know it?”

“Hmm, nope.”

“I told her she could, it’s perfect for her: no ads, all content produced by girls her age and those up to the teen years, and I could tell she’s just sucked in.”

That was three years ago. Eleanor will be 13 next month. She’s not missed an issue. The same organization has a moderated social media site on which both my girls share their artwork and writing with a community of New Moon Girls Online members. They discuss politics and the kind of culture that my girls and girls their ages are into. And all in an online environment that is kind and supportive and just what I’d idealize.

There are other kids boats out here, sometimes even with kids aboard that my girls connect with. But in the best of circumstances, those connections are temporary—we’re all moving in our own directions. But no matter where we are in the world, my girls have this community of girls that they can tap into to feel a part of a larger peer group, to whatever extent they want.

I know they love it because Windy and I hear references to it daily.

And in the current New Moon Girls print issue is a feature story that Eleanor wrote, sharing her perspective growing up on a boat (adjacent to a story from another New Moon Girl who is growing up in an off-the-grid yurt). The week the issue dropped, Eleanor was gratified to get a lot of positive feedback from her online peers. That’s the kind of thing we couldn’t otherwise offer in this nomadic life.

Yeah, it's like the tag line above. My girls may have become
a bit too P.C., but that's okay as it allows me to play the Archie
Bunker against them, just to get a rise. The other day,
for example, in response to some ridiculous bureaucracy
I muttered, "That's so retarded." Which elicited an immediate
and fierce dressing down from my little Meatheads.
I love it.   

Friday, September 16, 2016

In Hot Water
By Michael

Eleanor warming her feet in Savusavu.
I saw the steam rising from the beaches the morning we pulled into Savusavu. It’s odd to imagine now, but the steam rising from the beach didn’t strike me, as though steam rises from beaches everywhere. Maybe it’s a traveler’s phenomenon. Over the past few years, the daily onslaught of unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells has perhaps dulled me.

Or maybe the steam just worked with the setting. After all, we were motoring up the lush creek, Nawi Island to port, palm-lined beach to starboard. I was steering through the field of moored cruising boats, hunting for town landmarks ashore. Except for the cruising boats, it looked for all the world like the steamy setting of a Vietnam movie.

Windy was standing ahead of me, looking over the dodger, “They have hot springs here, I read about them. Check out the steam coming from the beach.”

A short time later, we met a Swiss family aboard Elas, two girls our own girls’ age. They’d seen locals boiling clams on the beach and a plan was made to try their own hand at cooking. The girls rounded up a batch of eggs and potatoes and ventured ashore to lower them into the steaming pools.

I stayed aboard. Heavy rains were forecast and I was in the middle of a big saw-and-epoxy project to finally remedy a troubling leak below. And I was skeptical. I’ve been around hot springs. Maybe the water would be too hot to touch, but there was no way it was going to cook potatoes—and I’d be surprised if the eggs were more than poached.

They were gone a few hours.

“Dad, it’s amazing, everything cooked. We made lunch on the beach!”

“Totally? I mean, were they like mashed potatoes?”

“Yes…no! Not like mashed potatoes, they were mashed potatoes—totally cooked inside.”

And I learned the eggs were indeed hardboiled.

The next day, our friends CB and Tawn on Palarran came alongside in their dinghy.

“The hot springs are awesome, we went last night.”

“Were they hot—I mean too hot, or tolerable?”

“Oh yeah, they’re hot, but the guy adds cold water to the tubs so that the temperature is perfect, and you can always add more.”

That night we hiked up the hill to the house of the enterprising guy who’d built concrete catchments, to which he diverted the hot spring that flowed through his yard. It was pricey (FJD$15 per person—about $30USD for the family), but the night was cool and drizzly, we had the pools to ourselves, and we stayed for hours. Windy and I realized as we soaked that it was our first time soaking in hot water since our time in the Canadian and Alaskan hot springs in 2013.

We’re far south of Savusavu now, but we’ve already made plans to return, early next month. I won’t look at the steaming beaches the same on our next arrival, and I’ll make it a point to join the family when they propose to cook lunch on the beach.

Eleanor, Frances, and the Elas girls lowering potatoes into the water.
(courtesy Elas)

(courtesy Elas)
Eleanor, Frances, Neele, and Lenja
(courtesy Elas)
In hot water, but not in trouble.

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